Palmer Masonic Lodge

Also known as: Love Tabernacle
2640-2650 N. 1st Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Georgian Revival, former Masonic Temple and church outreach center, now awaiting its fate to be restored or demolished

Photos 

Overview Looking Southeast

The original 1913 structure can be seen to the left of the photo. The red brick façade was added in a major remodel in 1927.

Photo taken by J.R. Manning in October 2013

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Map 

Description 

The Henry L. Palmer Masonic Lodge / Love Tabernacle is located in the middle of a residential neighborhood on North 1st Street in a block located between West Clarke Street and West Center Street, almost two miles from the Central Business District. The neighborhood is characterized by substantial frame houses and duplexes, nearly all of which were architect designed. In recognition of the consistent setbacks, scale, cost and integrity of detail, the blocks surrounding the Masonic lodge were listed in the National Register of Historic Places on August 2, 1984 as the North First Street Historic District…

The front or west facing façade is the principal elevation of the building, added during a mjor remodeling in 1927. This project added 30 feet to the front of the original Masonic temple and wrapped around to the north and south elevations…

The building follows the classic tripartite arrangement of base, middle and top and is symmetrical in design. The basement story is at grade owing to the sloped site and above are located two floors and then an “attic” story at the mansard tile clad roof…

From the PERMANENT HISTORIC DESIGNATION STUDY REPORT NOVEMBER 2012 published by the City of Milwaukee, November 2012

What Fate Awaits the Historically Significant Palmer Masonic Lodge / Gingerbread Land Office? 

Abridged by J.R. Manning, Original published by the City of Milwaukee, November 2012

The Henry L. Palmer Masonic Lodge #301 is significant as an example of the prominent fraternal buildings being constructed in the city in the early 20th century. Membership in fraternal organizations or “secret societies” as described in the city directories literally exploded in the final years of the nineteenth century and grew into prominence in the social and cultural world of the city by the 1920s. The Eagles Club, for example, had over a million members in Milwaukee making it the largest aerie in the country. Their clubhouse on West Wisconsin Avenue was a phantasy mixture of Mediterranean revival with Assyrian-like figures. With such large numbers needing accommodation for ritual events, meetings, dining and socializing, fraternal organizations like the Masons left their rented quarters in public halls, often the top floor of a commercial building, and embarked on ambitious building programs that resulted in large masonry structures that ran the gamut of styles from classical revival to Mediterranean to Colonial/Georgian revival. Such structures had highly specialized interiors to meet the needs specified above and were visual landmarks in their locations. The Henry L. Palmer Masonic Lodge #301 located on a residential block unlike most other groups that built on prominent thoroughfares.

The Henry L. Palmer Masonic Lodge # 301 is also significant as an example of the Colonial/Georgian Revival style as applied to a fraternal building. This façade, dating to 1927, now encases the original 1913 front that was a mix of Classical and Egyptian Revivals. The red brick façade features monumental stone pilasters and a large two-story arched window with elaborate terra cotta decoration that features an array of symbols from the all-seeing eye (symbol of God), cross and crown, hour glass, anchor (symbol of hope), level, blazing star, Masonic trowel and gavel, and beehive.

Architect Carl Barlkhausen, who was a member of the Palmer Lodge, was one of the top designers of his day. While in partnership with Charles Crane, the two produced some of the most flamboyant examples of German Renaissance Revival in the city. The Palmer Lodge is a previously undocumented but significant example of Barkhausen’s later independent work which shows him to be a master designer skilled in many of the architectural styles popular in his time.

The Henry L. Palmer Lodge #301 occupied this building through 1959. The lodge is now located at 4315 N. 92nd Street in Wauwatosa.

In 1960 the Herny[sic] L. Palmer Masonic Lodge/temple was purchased by U.A.W. Local #75 and remained their office for eleven years…One of the members of Local 75 was Franklin R. Atwater, an employee of American Motors. He was influential in having the union sell the building to his wife’s ministry which was earlier located on 3rd Street (now King Drive).

Sister Clara Atwater opened a church in the former lodge hall/union office building and had run the non-profit organization called Gingerbread Land Inc. from the premises until recent DNS orders required that the building be vacated…

…Building code issues have recently led the Department of Neighborhood Services (DNS) to issue a raze order on the building. As a result the building is currently vacant. The roof needs replacing and much of the damage is on the interior. This nomination was submitted in response to the DNS orders and is going hand in hand with the owner’s efforts to obtain a mothball certificate. The building can be repaired. The building is already listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the North First Street Historic District. (Listed August 8, 1984).

Condensed from PERMANENT HISTORIC DESIGNATION STUDY REPORT

City of Milwaukee, November 2012

Link below.

Update Log 

  • July 13, 2014: Essay added by J.R. Manning

Sources 

  • J.R. Manning - thekitchenguy [at] sbcglobal [dot] net
  • PERMANENT HISTORIC DESIGNATION STUDY REPORT - In depth report of the historical significance of this structure including history, architectural details and significance to its surroundings